Why is Amitabh Bachchan pushing himself? (COMMENTARY)
Two years ago, I wondered whether I should address an open letter to Indian screen icon Amitabh Bachchan as I watched him having to rest briefly during an act with the much younger Sanjay Dutt, Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar during a live stage show in Durban.
By Fakir Hassen, IANS
"Why are you pushing yourself to the limit and insisting on engaging in all these live appearances and performances, rather than taking it easy now and assuming a less strenuous role as an international ambassador for the Indian film industry through the speeches you deliver to rapt audiences?" I wanted to ask.
But some industry insider information about Bachchan's frenetic schedule, including even a spate of product endorsements as manufacturers fell over each other to sign him up, made me delay the question.
In Singapore last month, during the annual IIFA Awards, of which Bachchan is the Brand Ambassador, I finally got the answer to my question.
Speaking candidly to the international media at the launch of a co-production his revived company AB Corp is involved in, Bachchan admitted to having been too ambitious the first time around, resulting in ABCL going bust.
"In 1995 I started what was ABCL, which was going to encompass the entire entertainment vision that we were growing into.
"We started well but we ran into trouble. The company went bankrupt and instead of closing the company down; against a lot of wishes of our advisers, I chose to keep it alive and worked hard to pay back all our debts and get the company back on its feet again.
"I'm happy to say that after having taken care of that, with a lot of trouble, lot of assistance from friends and well-wishers, we are now back on our feet. But having learnt some bitter lessons in the sphere of management of entertainment companies, we decided that we would start taking very small steps forward."
Bachchan said the company felt they needed to be less ambitious than they had been the first time round.
"We feel that perhaps we should start by making films first. Even in that sphere, we wanted to hold hands with people who were conversant with the technology of production, with the idea of making films.
"We were weak in that department. Production is not an easy job and we felt that we should hold hands with existing producing companies, giving them our assistance as far as our creativity is concerned."
Bachchan pointed out that this creativity meant more than his agreeing to be in such films.
"This creativity just doesn't restrict itself to offering myself or (my son) Abhishek or (wife) Jaya as artists in the film, but also to be able to sit in on stories and music or other aspects.
"The idea really was that initially we were putting in 100 percent in the production. And perhaps making two or three per cent and sometimes not even that as profit. Now we've decided that we will share profit 50-50 or come to some kind of equation where the risk was divided and perhaps hope for a better profitability.
"This has been our stand and our philosophy for the second time round of AB Corp. I hope that as we move forward gradually and slowly, we will be able to get back to our original concept of expanding not just in the area of filmmaking, but into other facilities as well, be it post-production, be it multiplexes, be it audio, events, endorsements - the entire gamut that the Indian film industry offers."
The Hindi film "Virodh" and its English version "Versus", to be directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, would be the first of the co-productions that AB Corp would venture into.
The films will star Bachchan as a father who tackles the legal system after the death of his son, and wins. It will also feature veteran actress Sharmila Tagore.
Bachchan said he was looking forward to working with Manjrekar on the project, which his son Abhishek had convinced him to take on.
"I've been a great admirer of Mahesh and his directorial talent. Needless to say, he's also an extremely talented actor and that is perhaps one of the reasons why he's such a good director.
"I've always believed that when a director knows aspects of acting as well, he makes an even more brilliant director. Mahesh and I have worked together on "Kaante" and Mahesh is a very, very accomplished actor."